It's Wonka Day! CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY opens in wide release across the United States and Canada!

Tim Burton’s much-anticipated re-imagining of Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, starring Johnny Depp as the mysterious candymaker Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket, opened today on 3,770 screens in the U.S. and Canada to generally enthusiastic reviews. Some critics were unable to set aside their pique that the Roald Dahl novel was being filmed again, and their bias distorted their reviews; and most could not resist comparing Willy Wonka’s physical appearance to Michael Jackson, even though Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have both publicly scoffed at the suggestion that either had Jackson in mind. But overall, reviewers found CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY a feast for the eyes and a thoroughly satisfying film. Here is sampling of major reviews–thanks to nettydeppy, Gilbert’s Girl, Reemi and abigail. You can read these and many more in their entirety on the Zone’s News & Views forum:

Paul Clinton, CNN News: “Director Tim Burton has solidly connected in topping the 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s story, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (a film that was titled WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY).[…] Our first glimpse of Willy is a bit startling. With his white face makeup, high-pitched voice, strange clothing and Prince Valiant hairdo, Depp seems like nothing so much as … Michael Jackson. Depp, fortunately, is such a good actor that the initial impression soon wears off. He gives a risky, and terrific, performance. […] When it comes to filmmaking, Burton and Depp are both men with unique visions. […]Burton has taken us into territory never before imagined, and Depp–a thoughtful character actor who happens to have the brooding dark looks of a leading man–has delivered layered, interesting and compelling performances that work spot-on with the material. In the case of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, they’re both on their game. It’s a beautifully executed, visually astounding film about love and family–making it the best film out there this summer for families everywhere.”

Claudia Puig, USA TODAY: “Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka is sure to give audiences the willies. Though he’s the master of all things sweet, his demeanor is anything but. Still, Depp deserves kudos for fashioning an original and outlandish if occasionally menacing character in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY .[…] With its dazzling sets and fabulous special effects, CHARLIE is a visual feast, from the dragon-headed boat made of pink spun sugar bolting across a chocolate river to the elaborately kaleidoscopic song-and-dance numbers. […]Dahl’s familiar tale feels extraordinary and dreamlike thanks to Burton’s creative interpretation. It emerges as the summer’s most visually arresting escapist adventure.”

Joel Siegel, GOOD MORNING AMERICA: “CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is a true classic all on its own. I love the first film, based on the Roald Dahl kiddy classic. But this one’s better. […] Freddie Highmore should have been Oscar nominated last year for FINDING NEVERLAND. As the new Charlie Bucket, maybe he’ll be as lucky this year in Hollywood as he is with candy bars. […] And the uncanny Johnny Depp creates a preposterous, unbelievable, unlikable Willy Wonka, and makes him real. And sweet as nougat. Grade: A-.”

David Germain, ASSOCIATED PRESS: “A big studio film that really works. A remake that improves on the original. Hollywood is truly in fantasyland with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Tim Burton’s wildly imaginative take on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book. This is the sort of visual feast Burton was born to make. It’s a film packed with chaste delights for young children and plenty of sophisticated, cryptic edge to entertain and puzzle their parents. Then there’s Johnny Depp. As candy man Willy Wonka, Depp puts such a distinct, strange, wondrous and sometimes creepy stamp on this social misfit, Gene Wilder’s portrayal in the 1971 original almost looks like a button-down 9-to-5 Nestle exec by comparison. Just as Depp hoisted PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL from a pleasantly dopey action comedy to an Academy Award-level performance piece, he elevates this elegantly simple tale into Burton’s most human film since their collaborations on ED WOOD and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.”

Michael Wilmington, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “In a summer of movie discontent,CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY stands out like a gourmet truffle in a box of stale caramels and curdled creams. Tim Burton’s scrumptious version of writer Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s classic is almost everything you’d want it to be: a peach of a story delightfully imagined by Dahl and lushly realized by Burton. It’s full of witty or awesome scenes, flights of fancy and characters either totally, lovably sweet or outrageously, humorously rotten. Heading that gallery is Dahl’s cracked genius of a candymaker, Willy Wonka himself, the character memorably played by Gene Wilder in the 1971 film version of Dahl’s book and here played by Johnny Depp. Depp’s Wonka can seem sweet and poisonous himself, sometimes in a single line reading […]. Depp […]plays Wonka like a daffy man-child, brilliant and petulant, always in control but only because he owns everything in sight. Depp’s line readings, as in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, are disarmingly twisted and unexpected; he bends phrases, just as Wonka springs traps and double meanings. As in his first BATMAN, Burton fashions a wonderful pop mythology on screen. But the film works so well because all its makers (including executive producer Felicity Dahl) are so faithful to Dahl’s vision and mood. It’s an exhilarating and fanciful movie that never drowns in money or technology. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, in fact, gives you everything you should want of it, except the actual taste of chocolate. You can bring that yourself.”